A former Oklahoma City Fire Department assistant chief and member of the “Original 12” died Friday.
Carl Holmes, 90, began his service with the department in 1951 as one of 12 black firefighters hired that year.
Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson said in a time of racism and discrimination, Holmes and the other men were faced with profound challenges and worked to excel past the normal expectations associated with the job, with many rising through the ranks of the department.
Holmes became the department’s first black assistant chief in 1978, where he worked to promote diversity and develop leadership and management skills of black firefighters.
After retiring in 1981, Holmes was sought across the country as a keynote speaker and instructor and was courted by major cities, such as Chicago and Los Angeles, to become their fire department chiefs.
Despite the offers, Holmes chose to spend his time and focus on the development of minority firefighters and managers in the fire service.
In 1991, Florida A&M University created the Carl Holmes Executive Development Institute with the goal of training black firefighters to prepare them to attain higher ranks. Since its founding, the program has led to hundreds of graduates who now serve as officers, chief officers and fire chiefs.